Think about the last time you heard a great story.
Perhaps you were gathered around the dinner table with your family or 2 bottles deep at a restaurant with friends.
Did the storyteller have a “just the facts” attitude, or did they draw you in with details that made you feel as though you were right there with them? Maybe the storyteller inflated a few points to make the adventure seem larger than life (We were in the middle of nowhere and hadn’t seen another car for hours!) Or perhaps they omitted key information to create suspense and keep their listeners guessing (I couldn’t make out the shadow clearly, but I could tell by the footsteps that it was enormous!)
What made you lean in to listen? What kept you on the edge of your seat? Every story has the same basic elements, but a good story is more than the sum of its parts. Telling a great story about the products you sell shouldn’t be any different than sharing a thrilling tale with friends. You want your shoppers enthralled and you need complete, accurate and compelling catalog information to do it.
Consider the differences between these descriptions of a table.
“Add a touch of Paris to your dining room with this French bistro-style table. The table base is constructed of long-lasting cast iron and crested with a dark russet wood top. Finished in hand-brushed antique bronze, this table is an amazing addition to any dining space.”
“French bistro-style table made of bronze cast iron and dark wood.”
Which would you be more interested in buying? Which description offers you a better sense of the product you’re thinking about purchasing?
Catalog data is the information your potential customer will use to virtually run their hand over plush, navy blue velvet and “feel” the satisfying spring of a tufted sofa cushion. It’s the information a newlywed couple will use to make newspaper cutouts of their favorite pieces to arrange and rearrange in an effort to see how your furniture will work in their first home.
Compelling catalog data is a part of digital merchandising. If you’re in the home furnishings industry, you’re probably familiar with the concept of “retail merchandising” or “staging”. Retail merchandising helps shoppers make decisions about what to buy, makes people feel good about shopping in your physical store, and most importantly, converts browsers into buyers.
Digital merchandising is similar to staging or retail merchandising - except it’s done on your website, email campaigns, and social media with words, curated collections, good photography or videos, and plenty of descriptive details. Digital merchandising is the way to tell each product’s story, and a good story sells!
So why does merchandising (digital or otherwise) matter?
Poor catalog data impacts merchandising which impacts sales in three areas: returns, customer loyalty, and shopping cart abandonment. Improving your catalog data will reduce returns and cart abandonment, while increasing loyalty.
Merchandising narrows the options a customer is considering, which helps them relax. If you don’t understand why having a bunch of equally good choices actually makes shopping more stressful, listen up.
Has something like this ever happened to you?
You’re in the market for a new toaster and you’re ready to purchase. You’re browsing Amazon, credit card in hand, and after (what feels like) an eternity of searching, you give up in disgust.
At some point, all the features, colors, and styles start blurring together. It’s hard to remember what you’ve already seen, which features are most important, and which brand has the best reviews. You decide that you need some time to clear your head, and put off making the purchase.
Why does this happen? Overchoice.
Overchoice (or choice overload) is a psychological phenomena that occurs when many equally good choices are available, leading to mental exhaustion as a person weighs each option against all the others.
Initially, more choices lead to more satisfaction, but as the number of choices increase, satisfaction peaks and people tend to feel more pressure, confusion, and potential dissatisfaction with their choice.
Although larger choice sets can be initially appealing, smaller choice sets lead to increased satisfaction and reduced regret.
What’s a retailer to do?
To capture the most customers, you need to offer a wide selection of products - but to make shopping enjoyable, you need to make sure consumers aren’t overwhelmed! An overwhelmed shopper isn’t a happy shopper. An overwhelmed shopper is likely to give up and leave your website or physical store without purchasing anything.
Whether your store sells an “endless aisle” of products, or a carefully curated selection, brick and mortar retailers can offer consumers a less stressful and more satisfying buying experience than the online retail giants IF their web presence and in-store sales experience is engaging and expert.
You can help your customers cope with overchoice by using catalog information to tell a rich story about the product they’re considering. Detailed product information offers differentiators that ease decision making fatigue. For example, when choosing between two equivalently good options, the following details might help break the tie.
“This wood comes from recycled barn boards.”
“This fabric was knitted by women in India for a fair wage that helps lift families out of poverty.”
The modern consumer wants expert guidance paired with reliable and unbiased information about the products they spend their hard-earned money on. And because this is the digital age, a web presence is the single best way to communicate these things. Furniture retailers need a web presence that offers:
Complete and accurate catalog information
Reviews from other shoppers
The same stellar shopping experience whether customers complete their purchase online or in-store.
I’ve talked a lot about the importance of digital merchandising, and now I’m going to talk about the fastest way to get that merchandising done!
Assist For Dealers
Assist for Dealers is the only catalog information management tool developed specifically for home furnishings dealers. Assist automatically imports vendor product information so you and your team can prepare it for your website and point of sale system.
How does it work? Assist is a web-based platform, so you can access it from any web browser. Simply upload the Excel spreadsheets you get from vendors and use Assist to organize the information and check it for accuracy and completeness. It’s a safe and centralized “master catalog” for all your furniture data, like images, SKUs, descriptions and dimensions. Once you have all your vendor data uploaded, you can quickly and painlessly merchandise products by creating groups & kits tailored for your store, improving romance copy, or adding updated photos. Exporting your newly merchandised data is easy! Click one button, and Assist generates a file for easy upload to your systems.
With Assist, you can give your salespeople complete information at their fingertips and never again lose a sale due to poor or missing information! You can create the types of Groups & Kits your customers are really interested in buying! And you can create great product stories that pull shoppers into your store and keep your register ringing.
Before telling yourself that you have a perfectly fine business process around managing catalog data, talk to one of our sales team and get a demo of Assist!